Lower diffusion in white matter of children with prenatal methamphetamine exposureSYMBOLSYMBOL

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Methamphetamine use is a common problem among women of childbearing age, leading to an increasing number of children with prenatal methamphetamine exposure. Whether microstructural brain changes associated with prenatal methamphetamine exposure can be detected with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is unknown.


Twelve-direction DTI was performed in 29 methamphetamine-exposed and 37 unexposed children ages 3–4 years on a 3-T MRI scanner. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) were determined in the corpus callosum (genu and splenium) and bilaterally in the frontal and parietal white matter (WM), basal ganglia (caudate, putamen, globus pallidus), and thalamus.


Children with prenatal methamphetamine exposure had lower ADC in the frontal (right: −2.1%, p = 0.04; left: −2.0%, p = 0.09) and parietal WM (right: −3.9%, p = 0.002; left: −3.3%, p = 0.02) compared to unexposed children. The methamphetamine-exposed children also showed a trend for higher FA in the left frontal WM (+4.9%, p = 0.06) compared to the unexposed children.


Since less myelination and higher dendritic or spine density have been reported in animals exposed to methamphetamine, lower diffusion in our children may reflect more compact axons or greater dendritic or spine density associated with prenatal methamphetamine exposure. These findings suggest alterations in white matter maturation in these children exposed to methamphetamine in utero.

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